I began the Bold Love Project in March of 2010 and completed it in December 2010. In that time I passed out a couple hundred “Parking Well” tickets, several hundred pieces of art with inspiring messages, and accomplished a couple dozen acts of kindness. I performed seven love surveys, hugged seventy strangers, and caused thousands of smiles.

What I learned from the Bold Love Project is that people are more beautiful than I ever imagined. After every Bold Love Act, I was left feeling I’d been given more than I gave. In every interaction, people proved themselves to be kinder and more open than I thought possible. And so, the greatest gift of this project has been a new faith in humanity. Too, on a personal level, I’ve found a freedom that has enlivened my relationships and my work.

Thank you to all my readers and to those of you who posted comments or offered feedback in person–I love you all! I know my posts have been of varying quality, but through every attempt I’ve become a better blogger.  I will return to blog again, so stay posted!


Bold Love Act #24: Christmas Decorating Fiasco

When my mom came home to a house taken over by Christmas, she said, “You didn’t bring down ALL the decorations, did you?” Indeed, I had brought down nearly all of the twenty tubs, boxes and trash bags that constitute her collection, and in so doing, had gotten some much-needed exercise.

Her saying this was my first clue my Bold Love Act might not be entirely appreciated. My confused look, the burning Christmas candle, and “Deck the Halls” blaring from the stereo clued her in that this was some sort of love surprise, so she said, “Thank you” & “How thoughtful,” but she is terrible at being disingenuous (a personality trait in her I admire.)

“You can take anything down and move anything wherever you want,” I said, but once she started, I was surprised. “You don’t like this?” I wanted to ask when she removed the bobbing iron Santa from the coffee table, but kept quiet, because I was trying to be Christlike.  I couldn’t help but protest, though, when picked up Santa Rat’s wicker sleigh and said, “I won’t have this in my house.”

“But, Mom! This is my favorite decoration from childhood!” “It’s cheesy,” she declared. I moved Santa Rat to a safe spot in my room, where he wouldn’t be ridiculed.

After our disagreement over Santa Rat, we worked together. She liked how I’d arranged the tiny presents around an old-fashioned clay Santa, but wanted him in the bookcase where almost no one would see him, so I moved him and rebuilt his pile of gifts. My mom looked for a place for the snowman whose messy wire body construction I loved and she detested. She found a place outside, then when he blew over, decided to give him away. We have so much I encouraged her to give away many decorations to “some deserving family,” but when she said No to our donating several items and I kept carrying in potential gifts, she finally said, “This is traumatic for me. I’m tired. Just go away.” When I later told her this was a Bold Love Act and I’d be blogging about her, she said, “Be sure to tell your blog that you’re only doing this because you and your brother NEVER helped me when you were growing up! NEVER!”

Taking down boxes, decorating, undecorating, repacking, and putting up the boxes again has turned into a six-hour job. What have I learned? To make sure what I give is wanted. The gift of this one has been deepening the rich vein of joking my mother and I have been mining over twenty-five years.

Bold Love Project #23: Spice Cabinet Intervention

My mom’s spice cabinets have recently become hazardous: besides the outdated, potentially lethal items it contains, she told me about reaching for pepper last week and having bottles spill out and nearly hit her. Too, things get lost: last week, she couldn’t find vanilla, so she ran off to United. This morning I found two vanillas buried far back, so now she has three. This is how her spice cabinet looked BEFORE–please note that the tall bottle on the first shelf, to the right of the divider, props up the sagging second shelf:

When she got home from running an errand and found the above shelves empty, their contents across the counter, she screamed so loudly her husband Bill came in and said he thought someone was being murdered. My mom said she couldn’t do it without me, however, so I persevered.

“This is an intervention,” I said. “I know. That’s what it looks like!” She shared a Schlotzky’s sandwich with Bill at the table and eyed me suspiciously. I filled up a brown paper sack with ancient crusty bottles of seasoned salt and steak rub, ketchup and salt and pepper packets, and sour-smelling salad dressing and barbeque sauces (which technically should be refrigerated, though my mother will argue the point even when faced with the bottle’s instructions.) “This is trash, Mom. You have the right to look. Do you want look at things first before I throw them away?”

“No, I don’t want to,” she said and went back to her sandwich. She owned two or three of many items, such as dried cilantro, oregano, chili powder, beau monde seasoning, powdered ginger, and dill weed. I set aside the repeats, knowing how much she enjoys combining things, how much it means to her to accomplish the semblance of efficiency amidst chaos.

Soon she came over and joined in. She was brave and fearless, even tossing items I was on the fence about.  I haven’t known her to believe in expiration dates–often I will read off an expired date and she dismisses the date, claiming, “it’s still good,” but today she stopped at nothing.

At the end there were several bottles she wanted to offer her housekeeper Priscilla. Knowing their age, I asked, “Maybe we should have Priscilla sign a waiver?” I thought she might punch me, but instead she laughed and leaned her head on my shoulder.

Afterward she thanked me and said, “Your initiative has bolstered my courage.” Now she’ll be able to find things:

Bold Love Project #22: Surprise Landscape Makeover

My friend Sarah Geenberg who owns Enjoy Your Landscape in Wimberley wanted to surprise our friend Kristin with a landscape makeover, so she spread the word and inspired dozens of mutual friends to donate hundreds of dollars and volunteer hours. The project occurred a few weeks ago–sorry, this post is long overdue.

What wasn’t donated, Sarah and her company covered. Here is Sarah, pulling out orphan plants that will find their home in Kristin’s yard:

There was no “reason” for the project. We did it to express love. Sarah worked five days in all: I worked one. The Saturday morning I participated, we moved plants from Wimberley to San Antonio:

When we arrived at Kristin’s, I spent several hours breaking up Bermuda grass with a shovel, picking out roots and rocks from the clumps. Working alongside five friends, I spent the afternoon transporting rocks and dirt via wheelbarrow. We dug holes, planted flowers, and spread mulch that emitted tiny gnats and so much heat it burned our hands. I ended up putting in more work than my body knew it could do.

Here is Malcolm, during the week an I-phone app designer and owner of several thriving businesses, at work on a gutter:

Kristin was out-of-town. I’m told the transformation of her yard was radical–I didn’t get to see it when it was finished or Kristin when she received the gift, but she looked like this:

Bold Love Act #21 Halloween Party Angel

Judy Sorelle was having her famous annual Halloween party for the kids and their families: I remembered trick-or-treating at her house and this year I wanted to help. She had ten bags of orange lights waiting when I arrived at 3:30. Oh, no–what if I electrocute myself? Couldn’t I make some cookies?  It wouldn’t be a Bold Love Act without boldness, though, and boldness means getting over something, so I named it an adventure and jumped in.

I dropped lights along the drive and snaggled them in the sparsely-leafed oaks; I wound them up a broad elm and frazzled them about Judy’s wild and wooly sunflowers. Judy clearly needed me, because in the two hours we worked I saw her exactly once, which was when I dragged her from the kitchen to consult with her on matters of safety and art. Who would be hanging lights if I wasn’t there? I had no idea. It was just Judy and me, and as I finished, guests were arriving.

Other than knowing I was making a difference, it fulfilled me to participate in the ritual of Halloween. Though I’m a Christian, I don’t agree with those who think Halloween is “of the devil.” Halloween is fun. Period. It is a time of mystery and intrigue. As I strung lights I listened to the frightening screams and ghoulish laughter emanating from Judy’s second-story window and relived my childhood glee at seeing the world transformed and my friends and neighbors made unknown to me. Because aren’t we all unknown to each other and don’t we all truly know little about how things are and why life is? And isn’t this our greatest thrill, even though we spend time covering it up to attain a sense of security? It feels good to have the cover stripped away, our minds bared to innate mystery.

But I wasn’t thinking metaphysical thoughts, I was thinking about candy. I was thinking how great it was to stumble through the dark amidst the parade of evil and glimpse a porch light and be given yummy things by total strangers, over and over, house after house, in paradoxical annual nocturnal bounty. I want children to have the thrill of fear and joy afterward, as I had. This is what the rest of their lives will be for, if they live well.

In a few hours parents would be guiding their children through the streets to offer them this bliss. Sometimes at my age, thirty-three, when my not having children is being ever more clearly defined as a choice, I wonder what I’m missing out on, but as I plugged in the extension cords and watched Judy’s yard bristle with orange, I knew I would forever be connected to the cycle of giving that lights up our world.

My Commitment: Bold Love Project Update

A friend pointed out I haven’t been posting as often. The reason is I’ve been writing the first draft of a novel. The novel’s main character accomplishes something very like the Bold Love Project, and so it has been underway, if in fictional form.

I am happy with the relaxed pace of performing Bold Love Acts, but I want to address that at the project’s inception I said I’d complete one every week and that hasn’t happened. From now on I’m leaving the timeline behind and acting when I’m inspired.

Too, the nature of Bold Love Acts has altered. I said I would commit public acts of love on behalf of dozens or hundreds of people, but I’m feeling more drawn to commit small-scale, private acts of love on behalf of family members, friends, and occasional strangers. It took a lot of courage to go out and brave the disinterest of strangers. It was exhilarating, and also exhausting. This is not to say I’m quitting large-scale acts: I will perform them when ideas and willingness arrive, but in the meantime I’m including private acts under the BLP umbrella. Love is best transferred when both hearts are open.

I am so grateful this project has come to my life. Though I haven’t accomplished as many Bold Love Acts as I wanted, the idea has altered my heart. Instead of being motivated by the usual question, the benign but unfulfilling, “How can I get what I want?” I more often now ask,  “How can I have the person next to me get what he or she wants?” I find the latter infinitely more rewarding.

I am moving to Amarillo to lead several Introductions to the Landmark Forum, a training and development course that offers breakthrough results in people’s lives–I’m leading these for free, and so each Introduction is like a Bold Love Act. I will be in Amarillo a month or two, and then in Wimberley. Moving is the watershed that has inspired this update.

All along, even weeks I do few projects, people are reading my words and checking on my progress: thank you thank you thank you to my devoted readers. I love you. It’s a joy to know you’re listening. I promise to continue to inspire.

Bold Love Act #20 Results: Moving Magic

What I am most amazed by over and over with this project is the extent to which, when I give, I receive. The friend I loaned my apartment to insisted on helping me move yesterday. I gave her many opportunities to go do something more fun, and each time she turned me down. She knows a lot about moving, and told me to rent a truck from Home Depot and drove us over there and made a call to set me up with a storage facility. She’s strong and has a lot of stamina, and I felt like I was trailing along behind her. On each trip from my apartment to the truck, she carried 30% more than I did. As we loaded, she was more concerned about my furniture getting knicked than I was. At the storage facility, she spent extra time making sure each box was in the right place so we could fit in as much as possible. I said at the beginning I was going to pay her, but when I pulled out money, she said, “I wanted to do something to contribute. “

“That’s fine, you did!” I said, and handed her some bills.

She wouldn’t take them. “I wanted to pay when I used your apartment, but I didn’t get to,” she said.

If she hadn’t been there, moving would have taken four or five times as long and it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.